ALLERTON Bywater couple Colin and Julia Firth – who say fostering children is the best decision they ever made – are appealing for more people to become foster carers.
The pair – who fostered a brother and sister last February through independent foster agency Orange Grove – said it was “vitally important” more people joined the 45,000 foster families in the UK.
Mrs Firth, 34, of Preston Lane, said: “It’s one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make but it is also the best decision we ever made, I’m going to keep doing it until my dying day.
“Unfortunately, we can’t have any more children of our own after having our daughter, Charlotte.
“So, rather than going down the IVF route where there is no guarantee, or the adoption route where you can only help one child when there are so many who need help, we decided to foster.
“The best part of fostering is the love from the children and to see them come on is brilliant.
“A lot of these children do come from backgrounds which will have affected them, and it is so rewarding to watch them build their confidence and strength.
“We have had brilliant support from Orange Grove, even if you’re not having a good day there’s always somebody there.”
Figures released by charity Fostering Network show more than 750 foster carers will be needed in the next year after a 16 per cent rise in the number of children living in foster care in England since 2008. Around 14 per cent of foster carers retire or leave each year.
Orange Grove assesses, supports and trains foster carers in partnership with local authorities.
The assessment process includes home visits, interviews and local authority checks which can take up to six months.
Mrs Firth added: “You do open up your home when you decide you want to foster, and it can feel quite intrusive having all the social workers come round. But they are not just coming to see the children, they come to see you as well.
“We didn’t think it was going to work for us as much as it has, we love it and are so pleased we can help so many children.
“I think people see it as a chore having to go through the vetting process, but it is vitally important that they do consider it.”
Helen Clarke, Fostering Network’s recruitment and retention expert, said: “All children in care need a family they can grow up with who can love them, be ambitious for them and help them achieve their potential. For a growing number, foster care is the best option.
“By becoming a foster carer people can help the children they welcome into their homes to have the best possible opportunity of a positive future, to do well at school and be successful in later life.
“Foster carers come from all walks of life, from teachers to factory workers and builders to nurses.
“If you want to work with children and have the right skills to foster, then finding out how you can make a real difference to children across the region could be a great start to the new year.”
For more information about becoming a foster carer call Orange Grove on 01132 872852, visit www.couldyoufoster.org.uk or call Fosterline on 0800 040 7675.